Greg McBride: “Freight”


When a boy, and young man, I rode the trains

along both coasts and the inland trains

through steel towns and coal towns, and still feel

the lulling clack of jointed rail pulsing

through plush seats and berths, through me,

and with me on into the night heading home

from school, or to see a girl, or go to war,

or to hoist myself into the shadows

of a boxcar standing alone at the edge

of town, sheltering freight stacked high—our home

too cold, too hot, neckties absurdly thin,

my whittling father, whistling at time,

and stumbling deeper into deepened dark,

the timbre of my kid-sister’s sounds

filtering down from her upstairs nest

and the kiltered gait of a war-dead friend,

though each visit veils more and further until

steel wheels ache into motion, a locomotive

heaves forward, towing the boxcar, jostling

side to side through the switch onto

the main line, the train accelerating

into time, mileposts blurring the past

behind, streaking over the smooth-railed roadbed,

chasing west toward forgotten.

Greg McBride is the author of Porthole (Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry, Briery Creek Press, 2012) and Back of the Envelope (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2009). His work appears in Bellevue, Boulevard, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review Online, River Styx, Salmagundi, and Southern Poetry Review. McBride’s awards include the Boulevard Emerging Poet prize and Maryland grants in poetry. He is a Vietnam veteran and founding editor of Innisfree Poetry Journal.

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